Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The old bear sees a light at the end of her tunnel.

Light reflecting off dirty wine glasses from holiday party
It's that time of year again when my bear instincts demand that I stay in my bed until the light returns (or Spring and/or paramedics intervene). Because my hypochondriac brain gets nervous when I become a hibernator, unwilling to do anything more than write lists of what I would do if I had more energy or a new body or if I hadn't eaten that last gift bag of rum balls, I start to worry about what will befall me if I continue this downward slide in homeless bag lady syndrome.  It only takes a quick glance into my past journals to realize that this state of mind/body slugdom happens every single year, probably on the same date. It is a curious state of my memory that I forget my wrestling match with bears, angels and daylight every year at this time in favor of sitting in front of the tv, cat on leg, popping rum balls and complaining on this "new" state of affairs.
Leon refuses to let me get off the comfy chair and at least change the channel to PBS.
Today is the Winter Solstice, the time of light returning.  It's time to get out the Manifesto Book - my book of changes (subtitled "If I Ruled the World") and the almost filled journal, gather a big pile of sticks from the garden and have a jolly good fire.  No, I'm not going to burn the books but just mark the beginning of my new year.

The Winter Solstice is the perfect time to reflect what I was able to do this past year although at this point in rum ball testing I will need to check the journal closely for those points of light. It is also that grand ole time of resolutions of which I must say, I don't even need to rewrite anymore, but pick any page of resolutions for the last decade or two. (lose-the-weight-walk-more-eat-more-veggies-get-a-dog-do-quicken-grow-my-own-veggies-clean-paper-files).  So Boring!

This year I'll try something that does not involve changing eating or exercise habits.

1. I will choose PBS as this year's donation.  (giving great gobs of money to the Apple Store is no longer considered a charitible contribution)

2. I'll start working regularly in the new dye kitchen, plucking the moldy pomegrante skins from their bowl and boiling them up into yellow dyestuff.

3. I will remain very happy to have gotten rid of my dryer and hanging my clothes up to dry.

4. As for my professional life (the one that pays the mortgage and buys cat food) I am making changes cutting back on the number of away workshops.  I need more time for my own creative endevours, learning new book forms, natural dyeing, paper making, writing and a few secrets. I have already booked quite a few workshops for 2012, but will start the cut backs in 2013. (sounds like our congress...)

5. I will be holding more workshops here at my studio, maybe even once a month.  These workshops will be two day classes as the expanded time will allow for longer study on the topic presented.  We can do the resist dyeing one day and make a book the next for example.  We'll go out for dinner on the evening between and be able to spend more time talking to each other and exploring ideas.  The class number will be reduced to only four students to allow more room and attention for everyone.

6. Most of my resist classes will be held here at my studio as hauling 5,000 pounds of heavy metal, dyes, chemicals and handouts is breaking my back.  Mercy!

7. I think I will only have two teaching venues where I will present my findings in natural dyeing and resist - and they are, of course,  places I love visiting - The San Juan Islands and Holland.  Well, given the chance I wouldn't mind England, Ireland, Iceland and oh...Italy in 2013!  Hmmm, and this is where I get in trouble with all my pronouncements and resolutions and manifestoes!! Ding dang it!!
I would think that this place would be a lovely teaching venue!!
 8. I will listen and watch my cats more, as they seem to have much more sense than I have.
Leon is reminding me to stop writing manifestos and look for the light.


Big olde Bear is rumbling and waddling from her cave, following those teeny bits of light - thoughts, ideas, plans, lists and new calendars on her ipad that make up the path to the tilting of the planet and the return of the light.  It doesn't hurt that I am doing a major wash of all the bed linen and without the dryer, those sheets will take about 3 days to dry!! 

I hope that all of you have a productive, enlightening and above all, creative time during your returning of light.


Friday, November 18, 2011

A brief visit to where I want to be...

Today starts our 14th annual Voorhees Family Art Show here in Asheville, center of the Universe, and I will hang four new pieces - the first (below) really was done in 2010 but never published before.  The other three are created from my first experiments with natural dyes - madder root, lac, walnuts and osage orange.  Working with natural dyes is where I want to be for my personal work.  This was just a brief visit.  Below are the rest of the new work - complete with liner notes!
Page 26 - Welsh Holly Leaves Fall to Earth
Page 26 -  Welsh Holly Leaves Fall to Earth (2010) 
When my best friends and I went to England and Wales in 2009 for a Memorial tour for my adopted mother Millie Voorhees, we visited the Welsh National Museum - St. Fagan’s.  This is an outdoor museum with every type of dwelling from the stone-age on.  Holly bushes surrounded the parking lot so I “borrowed” a few leaves. I had to snip off the points as they drew blood.  They were pasted in my drawing journal until I started this piece.  The “falling to earth” imagery comes from a poem by Mendy Knott where she writes of leaves leaping off the trees in Fall because they are so glad to be reunited with the earth.  She read this at Millie’s memorial service.  The tour, Millie, the leaves and their fall to earth all came together for this artwork. 
6.5” w X 9”h framed to 13.75” x 16.5H 
merino wool, sabreset dyes, glass beads, Welsh Holly leaves,  linen and cotton thread. Hand felted, resist dyed, stitched and beaded construction.

Walnut Page - Peeling Black Walnuts Under October Skies.
Walnut Page: Peeling Black Walnuts Under October Skies.  Squirrels Watch. (2011) 
When my friend Helen brought over 45 bushels of festering black walnuts I knew that it was time to indulge my long time desire to explore natural dyeing.  I have worked with synthetic acid dyes for almost 35 years but was a bit nervous learning a whole new world of plants and chemistry.  We sat on the back porch on a wonderful breezy, sunny day in October, surrounded by squirrels scolding us from trees and peeled the dye-rich hulls from the nut.  They were rotting and some were full of bugs but the smell was divine and I was completely captured by the ancient history of the black walnut dye.  I clamped pieces of hand felted merino wool and fed them to the walnut dye pot.  An hour later I reaped my rewards.  Thank you Helen. 
8"w X 10.5”h framed to 14"W x 17"H 
Australian merino wool, resist dyed in hand gathered walnut dye, glass beads, buttonhole thread, weeping cherry twigs. Hand felted, resist dyed, stitched and beaded construction.

Page 28 - Seeds Sense the Change (chance) of Seasons.
Page 28 - Seeds Sense the Change (Chance) of Seasons. (2011) 
One of my favorite resist tools is a handful of circular steel paper clips from Holland.  They don't work very well as paper clips but I love the beautiful circles they create on wool felt.  I tried them for the first time on a piece of felt that was first dyed yellow from Osage orange heartwood and then dipped into a dyepot of purplish Lac.  The pumpkin seeds, left over from another project of five years ago, jumped into those beautiful yellow circles and instantly had halos. Lots of tiny "seed" stitches around the halos created active and jumpy pumpkin seeds eager to make the transition from stationary storage to life.  (It's almost like how I feel when learning to make my transition from synthetic to natural dyes!) 
7.5” w X 7”h framed to 14”W x 17"H 
Australian merino wool, resist dyed in Madder root, Lac and Osage Orange natural dyes, glass beads, gold painted pumpkin seeds,  button hole thread. Hand felted, resist dyed, stitched and beaded construction.


Page 29 - Madder Root, Osage Heartwood.
Page 29 -  Madder Root, Osage Heartwood.  (2011) 
Sometimes the pieces of resist dyed felt talk to me before they are arranged a certain way.  Sometime I stumble blindly, stitching this piece to that and then doing it over again and again.  For this artwork, rather helplessly named Madder Root, Osage Heartwood, the Madder dyed side pieces demanded to enclose the lovely circle patterns created with Lac dye over Osage orange.  And then naturally, the circles became the Osage heartwood and the madder developed glorious wings with matching hearts of spiral metal sequins.  I hope they're all happy now! 
8.25” w X 7”h framed to 14”W x 17"H 
Australian merino wool, resist dyed in madder root, osage orange and lac natural dyes, glass and metal beads and sequins, button hole thread. Hand felted, resist dyed, stitched and beaded construction.


Thanks for lookin'.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's my birthday!

This is the view I'd love to spend every day looking at - the view straight up from my daybed on the screen porch - looking up at the yellow leaf maple in the clear blue skies!  But even a fairy princess or old crabby step mother as myself has to scrub out the cat box every once and again. Today is my birthday and while I normally postpone this celebration to the doldrum days of February, I am planning a lovely day with cats, dyes and friends.
Madder, walnut and osage dyed merino felt
I attended a lecture by Catherine Ellis on Tuesday and could barely sit still in my seat.  Just to hear those enchanted words...indigo...madder...dyes of antiquity... makes my heart race.  And another thing she mentioned - how she started working with natural dyes about 10 years ago when she retired from teaching and found it wonderful to know that one can still become so excited about learning even at a "later" age.  My feelings exactly! 
Felt in the osage orange dyepot
This week I have been sampling the yellows from Osage Orange and reds from Lac, Madder and Brasilwood.  After several weeks with the "Festering Walnut" it was a shock to the eyes to see the color bloom on the felts in the dyepots.  I am not a very good "sampler" as one should be when starting new dye ventures.  I see the rich browns of the walnut and put in whole Mokume tied scarves!  But I feel so many changes coming upon me that I am now 'sampling' - doing smaller dyepots and trying out the colorways on smaller felts.  But all those tiny felts are going in with resist tools a-bristling! 

One of my new challenges with the natural dyes was to see if I could use my knowledge with resist dyeing to create those seductive patterns on the surface.  I am finding that each one of the natural dyes I try out - be it an extract or made by me from the root/hulls/dyestuff itself, each dye has a personality.  Each one has such different ways it colors the wool.  Walnut manages to sneak under even the tightest of knots.  My former resist tool favorite - hair pins from Sally Beauty Shops - cause interesting iron stains on madder and brazilwood if the alkali is higher in the dyepot but no reactions with the gentle Lac.  I swear these dyes are alive.  Well, really they are, coming to me as gifts from Helen's Walnut trees, or squished and extract by human hands in France.  I don't think I could be happier with these new friends.
resist dyed with lac, madder and osage
On my birthday I will be beading and stitching my second group of yellow/red resist pieces that came out of the dyepot yesterday  This is a fabulous present of both time and dyeing.  Oh, I do have to have these done for the Voorhees Family Art Show coming up next Saturday and Sunday, but with them I shall spend all my days.
Walnut Pages:One.  "Peeling Walnuts under October Sun".  Walnut dyed, hand felted merino felt,  cherry tree sticks, beaded, stitched (and sideways)

but first a little time with my best pal, leon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Morning of Dreams

Morning from deck at Coupeville, WA
Well, it is still morning in my part of the world and I am still in my pjs and bathrobe.  Today I am dividing useable parts of the day between this computer and the dye kitchen in the basement (studio B).  All of the year's teaching has been finished with manifestos to be written and changes to be wrought.  Two more sales shows remain - The Famous 14th Voorhees Family Art Show to be held on November 18-20th here in Asheville, and maybe a small second show at my studio in December. So I am happy and anxious to continue working with my natural dyes.

I have a dozen bushels of peeled walnut hulls festering away on the back porch. I have never read in my pile of dye books about peeling the walnuts after they start to rot, but the resulting liquid after a few days of steeping is fabulous.  The slimey black goo and the fly maggots are a visual deterrant so I left the last couple of bushels for the squirrels to peel and a wonderful job they did of it too! All I had to do was sweep up the peelings each morning.


Here are my friends Helen and Steve helping with the peeling.  Helen got all the walnuts from her backyard tree and swears by the color they produce. I think the sitting in the October sun on my back porch smelling those walnut hulls is why I am so smitten with them.

This is one of probably 30 pots of walnut hulls a brewing.  Some containers were getting moldy so I took off the lids.  The water just evaporates so I top up every once in a while.  True to my own squirrelish behavior, I feel that I need a LOT of hulls to last me through the winter dye days. Sure wish I knew everything about walnut dyeing!
my first felted wool scarf walnut dye experiment
A few weeks ago I followed through on my written thoughts and got rid of my clothes dryer.  I needed the space for a "real" stove in the dye kitchen.  My favorite Habitat for Humanity had a wonderful and very cheap electric range that needed to be with me.
Now that I don't have a clothes dryer I am finding that I pay attention to the weather - what days are good for hanging clothes outside, how humidity extends the drying time, and the beauty of clothing waving in the breeze.  I bought a fabulous indoor wooden drying rack from the good folks over in Missouri - BestDryingRack.com and now have more fun than one could imagine hanging my clothes on the rotating rack. 

 I also am experimenting with Madder, a wonderful, ancient dyestuff which should give me some wonderful yellows through reds.  Helen gifted me with about 6 oz of the roots, themselves rather ancient purchase from Earth Guild several years ago.

I have done a few dyebaths with pieces of my felt hoping to recreate the resist dyeing surfaces that I have been doing using Lanaset dyes.  But there is something so different with the natural madder and walnut.  Their smell is rich and earthy and as far as I know, not bad for the body. The time it takes to mordant the felts, rinse and then put them in the dye liquor and carefully watch the temperature so it doesn't go over 160 degrees is time nicely spent.  The after-mordants of citric acid and ammonia that change the pH to give either pinks or yellows is truly pure magic.  I like spending that time with the pots as these feel as if they are alive.  Years ago when I taught a semester of indigo dyeing at the University of Minnesota - St. Paul, those pots were alive and needed careful tending.  We had a partnership, those pots and I.  And here again I have partners in my Studio B dye kitchen as well as squirrel partners on the dye porch.



Putting a previously felted and dyed in light madder (with ammonia after mordant) scarf, stitched and tied in Mokume resist pattern into a darker Madder bath.
The finished washed and dried scarf.  A whole pile of ummmms for that one.  Today I get to go back to the kitchen and think and play and learn some more.

I will be listing 2012 workshops on the next page of this blog.  Check under the title for the button.  I am starting to reduce the number of away-workshops for 2012 and 2013.  There are a few places I will continue to teach as I love the areas and people connected to the venues - Lopez Island, Sievers School up in Washington Island, WI,  and several other places. And I will start to hold more classes here in my studio.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's da Madder?

Howdy to All...and my deepest apologies for being probably the worst blogger in the history of blogging. And I can't even say that I'm going to write anything here -  as I am deep in (again) prep work for the Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fair (SAFF) coming up, like, well, tomorrow. (GASP!)

But I have been thinking of writing, like all those would be famous and talented writers out there who plan, arrange and write all in their heads, fully intending to use paper or in this case, this keyboard to put those great thoughts and plans down in solid form - someday.
After SAFF, I shall be the best blogger ever (now there's a goal) and fill you all in on the travels and troubles of a working day.  I am VERY excited about my new direction in dyeing - natural dyes - and the new brain cells that are growing to help learn all that chemistry.  Still being a book binder, still teaching thither and yon, still complaining about just about everything, and still making major changes to an already complicated and fearsome life.

As you may note in the photo above, those with eagle eyes, that is me way in the back (pleaseee!!!!) selling off about 5000 books so I could convert my so called
"living room" into a studio.  Many folks came by and asked what I was going to be selling next week, somehow mistaking me for a full time flea market vendor.  (Jane says, "How could you blame them, looking the way you do!")  Well, it was hot and the neighboring career vendor lent me a straw hat.  And was it my fault my apron said "Bite Me"?

But this is where I should be - early morning coffee, homemade raspberry jam on Cousin Marion's toast and my daily list of impossible to finish tasks - on the screen porch which is mercifully somewhat free from Stink Bugs these days.
More later!



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Workshop in Heaven - The Pacific NorthWest Art School

Fort Casey Beach, and look, there's me standing in front of our workshop building!
This just in - the wrong price was posted in the PNWAS catalog!  
Now this fabulous workshop is much cheaper!

I can't believe I am hunched over here in North Carolina, on March 16th, and I am dreaming of sitting on this fab-u-lous stone and pebble strewn beach - a Pacific Ocean beach - on Whitby Island next August 29 to September 1st.  Aren't you jealous!!  Ah Ha!! You don't have to be because you can join me here with the warm waves tickling our feet as we stitch awesome felted books all day long.

This Workshop in Heaven is The Pacific NorthWest Art School's little annex at Fort Casey on Whitby Island right near Seattle. I'll be teaching the ever changing and fabulous Resist Dyeing Class  - the one with 17,4869 different resist tools and dyebaths galore.  And not only will you  resist dye your little heart as well as the hand felted wool, we will be learning several fabulous projects which will showcase your beautiful resist samples.
Here are some of our resist tools.
Add the dye master and dye pots
some of the fabulous resist felts that come out of the dye pots!
And here are some of the projects - wonderful, colorful and extremely useful resist-felt wrapped journals, leather lined with thrift store skirt findings.

Long Stitch bound resist felt wrapped journals and sketchbooks
How can you beat that purple leather lining!!

 You can make use of your precious button collection for closures on these books.  I'll be demonstrating about a dozen different types, including my favorite which makes use of found sticks and (ahem) driftwood from magical places.

Fort Casey Bench again

 Can you imagine the wood closures we can make from the driftwood on this beach right in front of our classroom?  I love finding interesting objects from wherever I am and then using them in the books and brooches I make there.  Opps, did I mention Brooches?  YES. I will teach you all how to make these fabulous pins from, what else? - our resist dyed felt pieces.  Add beads and stitching and learn how to make a backing from book board and silk or linen (all available from local thrift stores) and I will furnish some fabulous pin backs that feature a bail - a loop- so you can wear the brooch as a pin or necklace!!

 So are you interested?  I really am.  I've been teaching for years at the Pacific NorthWest Art School - formally known fondly as just Coupeville - and have totally fallen in love with the San Juan Islands and Whitby Island.  This workshop will be held on August 29 to September 1st and will be jam packed with learning and breathing the sea air.  You'll learn how to full fine merino needle punch batts, set up a safe dye kitchen, some simple chemistry of the dyes we use for the resist dyepots, how to use the resist tools to make amazing marks on the felt, how to overdye again and again, and then the books, the beautiful books and the brooches, and as I am writing this I am thinking of even more...how about an optional early morning hour long sketch class of the beach - and then binding that sketch into your book!!

Yikes, I am hyper-ventilating. I hope you join me.  Oh, how to join the class? Contact the folks at PNWAS:  email: info@pacificnorthwestartschool.org  or call them: 360-678-3396.  The workshop is limited to 10 or 12. So hurry.  email me with any questions; chad@chadalicehagen.com










Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not Dead, just Sleeping...

things I have been doing


I have been thinking, all these long winter months.  Thinking of which comfy chair should I take a nap, thinking of how many duvets and wooly blankets I would like to pile on top of my bed, thinking of warmth and wondering if the spring and summers I remember were really just a nice dream or remembrances of a movie I once saw.  I don't do winter well at all.  I do hibernation very well.
first drawing of my on-line class with Jane Lafazio

I did sign up for an on-line drawing in public class to get me out of the house and into the world of  chilly social living.  I bought paper and pens, and of course, had to figure out just the right containers for pencils that would fit into the just right art bag.  I love preparing for things.  It took days to get it all perfect.  I started with the above drawing of keys - our first assignment - the day before it was due. It took me four hours but I figured that was fine since I was entering a new phase of my artistic career.

I did do lesson #2 along with Jane and Susie Voorhees who were also taking the class.  Since it was in a cafe and we had coffee I was happy.  Lesson #3 was done about a week after it was due.  Lessons #4, #5, and #6 I have saved on my computer.  I just moved all my drawing tools, bags, paper, special brushes, bags and my three drawings out of the sunroom and back into the upstairs studio so that I can start on my taxes.  That's fine since I am entering a new phase of aggravation.

lovely upcycled leather mini books
I am still making books, or thinking about making books.  It's true.  I have moved some of the cat hair off my upstairs studio desk and found some new containers for things like pins, pens, pencils...  Did I mention that I love to prepare for things?

Teaching has been done in the midst of snow and chilly blasts - guilds in Boulder and in Potomac and a Winter Retreat right here in Asheville which was a bit blemished by the fact that the airlines lost my bags full of teaching stuff and the recent snowfall kept my ("no, it isn't a four wheel drive! Why would I get that?") SUV at the bottom of my driveway.  I was able to teach my last class on Sunday and found some fabulous buttons from a vendor which I used on several books. (instead of putting them in the special cabinet full of drawers that I got to organized my buttons and closures).
  
I really have excuses for not keeping up with a blog - the computer and all it's brain suck stuff -  Facebook, email, blogs of others, blogs of mine, paying bills, finding cheap stuff, looking at uTube, learning Twitter, finding some cool shoes, and the latest techno-shock to my remaining brain cell - my new iphone with the attendant Apps for everything except doing the dishes.
no app for cooking either
But the sun has been out. I saw it and took a picture with my iPhone.  I have been sleeping once again on the porch now that the danger from any stink bugs is gone.  I am finding a few in the home but they are mostly dead due to my deadly brain waves directed at them last fall. (I think that I am sounding a bit like Charlie Sheen!!) I am very happy that flowers are coming up, crocuses are blooming and I can stretch and yawn like the big northern hemisphere hiberating bear that I am.  All those patient people awaiting photos and class descriptions and any other requests of the last 3 months will be rewarded as soon as I can get some more cool plastic containers to organize the paperwork and get a new fountain pen with a tiny nib that I found on line and make a leather bound book in which to list all my lists and I learn the iphone "notes" app.